Jeremy Hunt has launched a fresh attack on Stephen Hawking for suggesting the “direction of change” in the NHS was pushing it towards the US-style insurance system.
The Health Secretary issued an initial response on Twitter where he claimed Professor Hawking was “wrong on lack of evidence” for the weekend effect and then followed it up 17 hours later saying the scientist was spreading “pernicious falsehoods”.
The war of words broke out on when Prof Hawking, a lifelong Labour supporter, accused Mr Hunt of “cherry-picking” evidence while suppressing contradictory research in order to suit his argument.
He also suggested the NHS was under risk of privatisation in the hands of the Tories, comments which were supported by both Jeremy Corbyn and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron.
Mr Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, took to Twitter to defend Prof Hawking, who he described as the “brightest scientist in the world” and thanked him for his input.
“The brightest scientist in the world has been compelled to intervene due to the Conservatives failing our NHS. Thank you Professor Hawking,” Mr Corbyn tweeted.
Mr Hunt’s Twitter outburst was spread over a 17 hour period during which the Health Secretary asked if it was “too much” for Prof Hawking ”to look at evidence”.
The controversy comes as Prof Hawking said the NHS was being subjected to competing forces, with the public who want a taxpayer-funded free service on one side and multinational corporations on the other.
He wrote: “In the US, where they are dominant in the healthcare system, these corporations make enormous profits, healthcare is not universal, and it is hugely more expensive for the outcomes patients receive than in the UK.
“We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a US-style insurance system,” he added.
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